I figured it was about time I talked about a more current film, so I recently went out with some friends to see Annabelle. As I had never seen The Conjuring, I had no real expectations. Even so I found this film to be a tad underwhelming with, the more I learn about and think back on it, the film feels tired. As this film is very much separate story from the first in the series, as it’s a prequel. But sequels even in a prequel form rarely living up.
Annabelle opens with what I’m told is the opening of The Conjuring with a woman talking about where she acquired the doll. The film then cuts the 1967 California, where young married couple John (Ward Horton) and Mia Form (Annabelle Wallis) await the arrival of their baby Leah. John gives Mia a porcelain doll an apparent collectors item for her collect as a gift. The attack wakes up Mia to what she thinks was a scream from next door. She in turn, wakes up her husband John to investigate. John heads over to check on his neighbors and after being inside for a moment emerges from the house covered in blood and tells Mia to call the police. Mia returns to her home and calls 911 (were going to ignore that 911 wasn’t around in 1967 and wouldn’t be in use in California until over a decade later). After calling she finds a woman, who turns out to be her murdered neighbors run away daughter Annabelle (Tree O’Toole) in the baby’s nursery holding the newly gifted doll. Annabelle and her boyfriend (who was waiting in the shadows) attack Mia and stabbing her in the stomach in the process. John bursts in fighting off the pair until police arrive shooting and killing the boyfriend while Annabelle commits suicide while holding the doll. At the hospital Mia and John learn that the knife missed the baby and both the baby and Mia would be fine. But Mia is ordered to bed rest. After Mia returns home she starts to notice things turning on when no ones around as well as other signs of a haunting. After a fire while John is away, she able to convince him to move and throw out the doll due to her not wanting to return the home with their new baby girl Leah. The film then advance 6 months to their new apartment closer to Johns work. But while unpacking finds the doll that John threw out. Figuring he was simple mistake she makes the decision to keep the doll after all. Mia befriends a woman who works at a local book store, Evelyn (Alfre Woodard). Mia is able to convince John of the haunting after a number of frightening encounters. The couple asks for aid from their priest, Father Perez (Tony Amendola) who informs them that it’s not a ghost but a demon at work. He leaves after promising more help taking the doll with him as he feels that keeping the doll on sacred ground will weaken the evil tied to it. But at church he’s attacked and hospitalized by an unseen force. At the hospital John learns of the attack and speaks with the priest who has deduced the demons true motives. John rushes to return home and save his family…
Part of why Annabelle felt so underwhelming is honestly the demon. I’m kind of sick of demons showing up late in the second act of my ghost films. It feels like every ghost film that’s come out recently has had a demon shoehorned into it. Not that it’s a bad thing, Insidious does a great job of balancing demon and ghost. Here it just feels tossed in and rushed.
Also SPOILER WARNING, Evelyn’s sacrifice at the end of the film feels like a heavy cop-out, like the film was just trying to wrap its self up without making any real choices. As a minor character that has very little screen time, I just don’t understand her motivations. The this is what god wants me to do line makes even less sense. As I doubt it’s ever gods plan for you to give your soul to a demon.
I did enjoy the music score as it sets a very foreboding tone. This becomes ever more apparent as the film progresses hitting all the right notes accentuating a scene, but never really intruding or feeling out-of-place.
Final thoughts, it’s ok. The story is incredibly generic deviating very little from the ghost/demon formula. Fortunately the acting is good boasting a number of very talented actors including Tony Amendola who delights me every time I see him appear in a film. But the cop-out ending and rushed feel of the film left a sour taste in my mouth. So while the production level and acting are about par it falls victim to trying to do too much resulting in a score of 6/10.